In the 1920s, a piece of low-lying, swampy land dotted with fish ponds and vegetable farms occupied an area roughly in the centre of Singapore. Its 300 inhabitants relied on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Fast forward 40 years later to 1960, and the area was supporting a population of 10,000. The simple lifestyle remained unchanged until 1964, when the Housing and Development Board (HDB) embarked on a 150 million dollar plan to develop the area into a major town of 35,000 HDB units to house 250,000 Singaporeans.
Today, this town is known as Toa Payoh, one of the oldest housing estates on the island. After undergoing a 5-year revamp under the Estate Renewal Strategy, Toa Payoh is now a bustling neighbourhood with about 106,700 HDB residents. Landmark developments include a bustling HDB Hub, an air-conditioned bus interchange, a stadium, and the popular Toa Payoh Town Park.
The latter is popular with families during the weekends, the elderly during the mornings, and working professionals who go for a run in the evenings after office-hours. Its facilities include a food reflexology path, food outlets, a running track, and a stage area.
There are several schools in and around the estate. The Bishan-Toa Payoh constituency boasts a total of 17 primary and secondary schools, including the prestigious Raffles Institution.
The town does not currently have a hospital – the closest one is Mount Alvernia at Thomson Road. However, there is no lack of small, privately-run clinics built within easy reach of residents in the HDB estates. Affordable healthcare is available at the polyclinic at Lorong 6.
Being in close proximity to the centre, Toa Payoh is extremely well-connected. The air-conditioned bus interchange is the start and end point for 19 SBS Transit bus routes. By train, the neighbourhood is just 3 stops from Orchard Road and 6 stops from City Hall. The estate is bordered by the PIE and CTE so driving to the East or West of Singapore takes only about 30 minutes and a car journey to the city takes just 15 minutes in good traffic conditions.
A mark against Toa Payoh could be its age. Being HDB’s second satellite town after Queenstown, Toa Payoh is considered a mature estate. According to the September 2009 Statistics Singapore Newsletter, Toa Payoh ranks 4th on the list of estates with the most 1 and 2 room flats with 10,200 of these developments. Bukit Merah tops the list with 22,200. Toa Payoh is also the town with the 5th largest number 3 room flats. Statistics show that it has 41,400 of them.
Many of this mature estate’s residents have lived in the area for a long time, resulting in a large elderly population of 18,200. According to the same publication mentioned above, this number places the estate in the 5th spot in terms of the number of residents aged 65 and above. Bedok has the top spot, with 31,000 old folks.